UTEP Miners (3-6, 1-4) at FAU Owls (2-7, 1-4)
Series Record: UTEP leads 1-0
Kickoff: 4:00 p.m. Mountain Time
Streaming: C-USA TV
Vegas says: FAU -3, 55.5 O/U
FAU is playing for pride, while UTEP still has mathematically alive chances at cracking a 6-6 record if they win out in their final three games.
UTEP is coming off a much needed win against FCS Houston Baptist in where Aaron Jones ran for 200-plus yards, and the UTEP defense dominated an inferior opponent.
Jones needs just 68-yards to become UTEP's all-time leading rusher, and hit the 1,000 yard mark on only 164 carries which is lowest amount of carries for running backs across the nation with 1,000 or more yards on the season.
Ryan Metz has been solid since taking over as UTEP's starting quarterback, completing 66 percent of his passes and has steadily improved UTEP's passing success rate since taking reigns of the Miner offense.
Hayden Plinke and Cole Freytag continue to be Metz's main, and most productive targets. Both average seven yards per target, with Plinke posting a 53.5 percent success rate.
UTEP has tinkered with their offensive line, and now has a six-man rotation with Tanner Stallings, Derron Gatewood rotating at center and Gatewood and Greg Long rotating at right guard. This has produced more athleticism, and versatility which will help open up the run game.
Starting left guard Will Hernandez was just graded as the top guard in college football by Pro Football Focus.
Defensively, UTEP held HBU to under 100-yards passing last week, but will tested by a physical FAU run game.
Linebackers Dante Lovilette, Alvin Jones, and Nick Usher continue their productive seasons as UTEP's top three tacklers. Mix their production with the recent steady play of veteran safeties Dashone Smith and Devin Cockrell in the secondary along with corner Nik Needham, and the UTEP defense has been a steady unit all season.
FAU running backs Gregory Howell, and Devin Singletary are a nice tandem with Singletary breaking out with 252 yards last week against Rice. Howell has four 100-yard rushing games this season, and averages 5.1 yards per carry.
Their running game isn’t explosive, but its physical, wear you down type of scheme opens the big play in the passing game.
Jason Driskel has three games this year in where he's thrown for 250-yards or more but has only threw for six touchdowns on the season. FAU's passing game is 40th best passing attack that creates explosive plays, although ranks 113th in the nation in overall passing success.
Kalib Woods is FAU's highest targeted pass catcher, and averages 13.6 yards per catch, and is one of five Owls who have 100-yards or more receiving on the season.
Defensive end and future NFL Draft prospect Trey Hendrickson will anchor the FAU defense as he's second in the conference with eight sacks, and second with 11.5 tackles for loss.
Linebacker Azeez Al-Shaair is a preseason all-conference selection and complies 10.9 percent of FAU's total tackles. Defensive back Raekwon Williams has eight pass breakups, and an interception on the season.
UTEP has never won a game in the Eastern Time zone in program history, a mark that UTEP fans have hoped to break for decades now.
Can the Miners finally win a game east of the Mississippi?
Four keys for a UTEP win
Get off the field on third downs
FAU only converts third down situations 29 percent of the time, and have converted just eight of their last 35 third down situations on offense. Allowing first downs in this situation will deflate the Miner D on the road, and give FAU confidence.
Come up with six in the red zone
Teams are coring 89 percent of the time they reach the red zone against FAU, while UTEP is averaging 4.54 points once they cross the opponent's 40-yard line. Settling for field goals might not win this game, and FAU is allowing TD's in the red zone 71 percent of the red zone penetrations allowed.
Force and cash in on turnovers
UTEP has to force two turnovers or more to win this game, but cashing in on those will be a major key. FAU is +1 on the year in turnover margin, so they aren’t turnover prone. But UTEP needs to go after the money to create momentum, points, and field position.
Continue offensive diversity
Getting UTEP's main offensive weapons involved has been heavily emphasized since the Miners' bye week. Hayden Plinke, Cole Freytag, Eddie Sinegal, and Aaron Jones have all shown play making ability. The need for more diversity, and getting Jones involved in the pass game could help UTEP put up points on the road.
This could be one of the best games of the season in terms of it being close, and exciting.
UTEP will have their chances to win, but can the offense execute and feed off what should be a good performance from UTEP's defense.
The Eastern Time zone struggles might continue though in a thrilling game that could be won by either team.
FAU wins on a late UTEP turnover, 25-21 Owls.